Sunday, November 28, 2010

Do this NOW

You should all help out my friend, Marcelo Lafuente

 1. Go to Salomon Nordic on Facebook and like their page. 

2. Scroll down and find his comment it should involve Fast Trax Run & Ski Shop.

3. Like his comment. 

This will win him a pair of skis, the race is ridiculously close.

A prize to the first person to do this....

Small print --> there isn't actually a prize.

West Yellowstone - A Better Update

After a ridiculous day of travel (see update here - By the Numbers) on Monday, I finally made it to Bozeman. As I had missed my ride due to the debacles with flights, I arranged a shuttle into West Yellowstone. That actually worked out quite well as the roads were terrible. Highways were shut down everywhere, and in fact the race originally scheduled for Wednesday had to be moved to Thursday; partially because it was brutally cold, but mostly because the timing crew and equipment got stranded in Idaho (see article on Faster Skier - article). Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself...

Monday night in West Yellowstone consisted of getting the Boulder Nordic Sport trailer organized and ready to work. For those of you who remember the trailer, this is very similar. Unfortunately, moving the trailer to the front of the hotel, where it would sit for the week, meant that we immediately got stuck. There was a lot of snow.

Tuesday we were up early and out testing skis. With temperatures hovering around -23C and howling winds, it wasn't looking promising for the race. Nevertheless, we braved the cold and went out to test some wax (Tuesday results). Given the wind and falling snow, using the speed trap was out of the question and we resorted to testing by feel. Ski*Go was running well and Chris and I decided to go with a base of Swix LF4 covered by Ski*Go C380 on the race skis. In the end it wasn't relevant and the race got moved to Thursday. Boom.

Wednesday was more of the same - cold temperatures and blowing snow. We ran some more tests and C380 continued to run well (Wednesday results). We continued with the same setup and spent the evening working up race skis for Drew. 

Thursday was race day and Drew stomped the field. This race was basically just a points grab to help the US sprint field improve their FIS rankings. It's an odd event, but the organizers held two sprint qualifiers (classic then skate) back to back with no heats. Weird. We were on old school Ski*Go -2 - -15 kick wax and Holmenkol Cold powder.

Friday was the skate race - generally a good day but room for improvement. Moving on...

Saturday was probably the most interesting race day of all. The field was super tight with the leaders changing throughout the race. Drew had some tough luck breaking a pole and probably would have challenged for the win otherwise. Nish and Graham Kilick were right in the mix too. Really great.

Is there more to report on the weekend? Probably, but I'm getting hungry and the all day breakfast upstairs at BZN is calling. Here are some pictures, stolen from Drew, to give you an idea of just how much snow there was.

Jeffries, Butler and Nish check out one of the many snowed in team vehicles.

A Yellowstone Parks building - mad snow.

Downtown West Yellowstone looking more like the Antarctic than Montana.

Friday, November 26, 2010

West Yellowstone - non-update

It has been brought to my attention that my frequency of updates from West Yellowstone has been poor at best. In my defence, it's been really busy and the internet connection is like something out of the early '90s. The good news is that I'll have the pleasure of spending five hours at the Bozeman airport on Sunday. Look for something good to come out then.

In the meantime, here are a couple of pictures of us making race skis for tomorrow's classic race.

Monday, November 22, 2010

By the Numbers

I have to admit that this is not what I envisioned for the first update of the season. Nevertheless, here is a summary of today, but the numbers:

3:30 - the time my alarm went off this morning

-16 - the temperature in Edmonton

1,000 - the number of questions asked by the friendly US customs agent

3 - the number of times we had to "reboot" the plane to try and clear a warning light.

110 - the number of minutes we sat on the tarmac in Edmonton

450 - the estimated weight in pounds of the lady across the aisle from me. Seriously, this was legendary. 

27 - the number of times the guy in front of me loudly announced he could call AMA to boost the plane while we waited.

2.5 - the number of hours my flight to Denver was late

30 - the number of minutes for which we sat on the tarmac in Denver waiting for a gate

30 - the number of seconds by which I missed my Bozeman connection

70 - the number of dollars it cost me to book a shuttle from Bozeman to West Yellowstone due to having missed my ride

0 - the amount of compensation in dollars offered by United to pay for my lunch

So, in summary, it's been a bit of a rough one so far. More to follow...

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Since it's come up a number of times at the shop lately, I thought I'd put together a short list of some of my favourite glide waxes. I've also included notes from discussions that Zach and Nathan and I have had on the topic. Note, the waxes aren't listed in any particular order - I think that all of these are excellent.

Base Layers

1. Ski*Go LF graphite - If you want your skis to be fast, the bases need to be hard and the wax needs to be durable. This product is one of the easiest ways to make that happen.

2. Solda S30 - Go out right now and buy ten containers of S30. It sells out every year and I promise you will use it up. Amazing in new snow, old snow, cold, warm - always worth testing as a base layer.

Cold Paraffins

1. Swix LF4 - One of the two best glide waxes from Swix. Always a safe bet when it's cold.

2. Holmenkol Matrix Green - Zach and Nathan's runaway favourite among cold paraffins last year. Consistently killed everything in testing. Runs quite a bit warmer than might be expected

Medium Paraffins

1. Swix LF6 - The other excellent glide wax from Swix. Low liability - if LF6 doesn't win the test it is never far out. Runs a lot warmer than you'd think.

2. Solda F31 Violet - The temperature range on the box says -4C to -14C. In reality, the range is probably even wider. Any time the temperature is below zero but not squeaky cold, F31 violet is worth testing.

3. Holmenkol Matrix Blue - Picks up where Matrix Green leaves off. Similar temperature range, but for higher humidity.

4. Ski*Go Violet - This was called Ultima under the old Ski*Go naming convention. Wicked fast in aggressive or man made snow. Mix it with Ski*Go yellow (242 under the old naming convention) in greasy snow.

Warm Paraffins
In these conditions, the paraffins usually make less of a difference.

1. Solda F40 Yellow - Amazing when it is super wet.

2. Holmenkol Matrix Yellow/Black -  when the crystals are course or the snow is dirty, get this in a test. 

3. Swix HF8 - Runs warmer than most other reds. Good stuff.

4. Holmenkol Matrix Red - Runs colder than HF8, more universal. Really nice.

Other Stuff

1. Ski*Go Green - Sometimes crazy fast, sometimes not. Too inconsistent to use without testing.

2. Swix HF6 - Inconsistent. LF6 is a much safer choice and rarely far out.

3. Swix HF7 - Seems to prefer newer snow, but don't use it if you can't test it. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fleet Evaluation

I spent the past two days in Canmore working with Kate Brennan on her fleet of skis. Kate is a Madshus sponsored athlete and has amassed an impressively large ski bag over the past few seasons. However, having a large fleet brings inherent challenges and Kate has experienced frustrations in deciding as to which skis to test and ultimately race on for a particular day. Come along for the ride and see what we determined...

One more thing before we get starte
d - as many of you know, I am terrible when it comes to taking pictures. I brought my camera with me to Canmore this weekend with the best of intentions and proceeded to take precisely no photographs. However, using the magic of the internet I have pieced together a few photos of what this process looked like.

Let us begin (for real this time)...

The first step in the process was to spend some time wi
th Kate discussing her fleet. We focused on the general feeling of the skis, when certain pairs worked or didn't work, what she like about her favourites, etc. It is important to understand what the athlete thinks about their skis and what they like. They might not be correct, but it is still important to know :)

(Patrick and Lorris discussing preferences in skis)

Next, each pair of skis was scraped and evaluated. All the skis were first measured by hand to check overall quality and a number of other characteristics. The classic skis were also put up on the flex tester and the pockets marked.

(This isn't actually the flex tester in question, but you get the idea - photo Nordic UltraTune)

With all the information now in hand, I began to make notes on each pair of skis. Thoughts on when to pull them out of the bag, skis to test in conjunction with, etc. Ultimately, a couple of pairs were removed from the fleet either because they were just plain bad or duplicates of other skis. All of this information was summarized on a sheet and Kate and I met again to discuss my findings.
(This is Zach and Noah discussing skis in West Yellowstone last year. Kate and I looked exactly like this, only I am taller than Zach and Kate is different than Noah. - photo Nathan Schultz)

At this point, things took a turn for the worst. Everything we have done so far is purely academic - speculation based on the best information we have available. While we can do a pretty good job at this, ultimately the results of our discussions will need to be corroborated using on snow testing. However, given that Canmore's Frozen Thunder is nothing more than a 1km loop covered in tons of people, on snow testing wasn't really possible this weekend.

(Had there been an opportunity for on snow testing, it would have looked like this. - photo Zach Caldwell)

By now you are probably asking yourself what is the point of this whole process. There are a few mains goals. Obviously, the first goal is to ensure that the athlete's ski bag is complete and that there are satisfactory skis for a variety of conditions. Perhaps more importantly, however, we are attempting to provide the athlete with some information to reduce race day stress. Kate's situation is not uncommon and frequently athletes are unsure as to wha
t they should do with their skis. It is the job of the technical staff to work with the athletes to provide clarity and ensure that they have confidence in their equipment.

Next week I head to West Yellowstone for the opening races of the season. West Yellowstone looks like this:

(West Yellowstone, 2009 - photo Erik Nilsson)

While I'm in West Yellowstone I will pick up my fleet of test skis, as well and Reid's and Paul's new skis. They look like this:

(Yes, those are our actual skis. Only six pairs are mine and the rest are Reid's and Paul's. - photo Erik Nilsson)

Not a bad update for a guy who didn't take a single picture!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Site Changes Complete

It’s been a long time coming, but with the race season just two weeks away there have been some nice changes to the website. Of note, there is some new and added functionality, including the following:
  • A search field to find that valuable nugget buried in a previous post
  • Link on the left sidebar to send me a message
  • Link on the left sidebar to subscribe to updates (if you received this email then you are already subscribed)
  • Updated schedule of winter trips
  • Links to both Facebook and Twitter profiles
  • Slide show of pictures near the bottom of the page
Now that the technical house is in order we can move on to the business of authoring actual content.